Have you ever notice how we humans get hypnotised by time. As we mature into being adults, it’s as though we develop an internal clock, something like an invisible heart pacemaker.
For instance, when I go for a 30 minute beach walk, I know pretty much to the second when the halfway point, 15 minutes, has gone by. It comes from years of mentally timing poses in my yoga practice or timing students’ poses in class, and even timing sections of classes and the length of a class.
Planning and organising is dependent on being able to manipulate the divisions of time – minutes, hours, days. This is as it should be. How else would you be able to catch a train or know when the 6 pm news was on?
There’s a place, though, where holding fast to time or being dominated by time might might in the way. Since we’ve been told that the aim of yoga is to achieve ‘the state of yoga’, that is, a state of being-ness, of freedom from afflictions, from suffering, we think that will take a long time – perhaps years, if ever.
Yoga consists of various practices: breath control, postures, yoga nidra, mantras, yantras, meditation, and more. They were developed to help us get to the liberating state of yoga.
We call these practices because there’s the notion that we’re working towards improvement, and we know that logically, it takes time. However, have you noticed that when we become absorbed in these practices, time slows down and perhaps even feels suspended. In that moment, we have entered the state of yoga. It is no-place and no-time; we are simply able to rest in awareness, however briefly.
When I started yoga over 40 years ago, I had no idea that what I was doing was putting myself in training to be in the present moment. I had no idea why it might be so important. Perhaps I thought I was living in the moment.
Mindfulness meditation teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn, describes the importance of the present moment:
…it’s the only time that we’re ever alive in, the only time that we could learn anything, express any kind of love or emotion, the only time we could be in our own body…. The only time we can see or hear or smell or taste or touch or communicate is now. And yet the present moment gets completely squeezed out by all of our preoccupation with the future and the past. When we start to pay attention to our own mind and our own body, it’s like reclaiming your life.
In the end, it’s not even improvement that we’re interested in attaining. We can compare the times when we are being mindful to a light being turned on. Or, maybe the periods when we are aware are more like a neon light that flashes on and off. We just want to lengthen the periods of light versus dark.
This is the extraordinary, revolutionary result that regular practice will deliver. So, why wouldn’t you practice? Kabat-Zinn asserts, ‘Your life depends on it!’